looking at time systems from the small to the all
Previous posts on these subjects:
Maya 13 Baktun – each column is 394 years from 3113 BC – 2012 CE
When referring to fractals of time, I mean to say the self-similar aspect of fractals. In the Long Count Calendar of Mesoamerica (the Maya, Aztec and others), uses units of 20 to organize their day count. There are periods of 20 days, similar to a month. 18 of those is a vague year (360 days). This vague year is called a tun. 20 tun, then 20 x 20 tun, then 20 x 20 x 20 tun and so on. The other number that is key to the timekeeping system of Mesoamerica is 13. Thus 13 x 20 = 260 is a doubly important number. 260 days is the length of their sacred calendar; 260 katun is the length of the period of history coming to an end on December 21st 2012 CE.
Although for us, the year is important for longer periods of time. Something I stumbled across was the period between three key years in calendar history: 1492 Europeans discovered the peoples of the Americas, bringing the Julian and Mesoamerican perspective on time together. 260 years later, 1752, the British Empire switched from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar, making it the most widespread calendar in use in the world. 260 years later, 2012, the end of the Long Count Calendar’s 13 baktun, or 260 katun period. Does it mean anything? Only what you want it to.
fractal patterns display self-similarity across scale
Fractals aren’t theoretical, they appear throughout nature, like in Romanesco broccoli.
Two archaic films (both from 1968) used the zoom to get across the scales of existence from the tiny to the enormous.
Beyond Numbers – Our Body in Time
This experiment in time is an exercise in developing our health, believe it or not (or at least give it a think). In several traditional medicines, diagnoses are made by looking at the face, the feet and other body parts as maps to the entire body. If there is a lesion in a particular spot, it tells of a deeper problem elsewhere.
If time is a matter of perception, as with colour, flavour, sound, sensation and so forth, then our understanding of it on a cosmic scale is completely dependent of us understanding it on a personal scale.
The 260-day cycle that the Maya use for their sacred calendar was original derived from the particular location where it was developed (by another culture on the Pacific Coast of Mexico). The Sun would pass directly overhead at its highest point in April, then slowly move its way South (to the Tropic of Capricorn), then return on August 13th. This would take 260 days. However, more recently, the 260 days have been tied to the length of human gestation. We currently round gestation off to 9 lunar months or 266 days. Using the gestation period as the foundation of a fractal timekeeping system is insightful. It ties our first experience of time as our very body develops to those of the cycles of the cosmos.
For the first 13 days of gestation, the cell (zygote) divides into 2, then 4, 8 and so on until it reaches 64 or 128 cells. Throughout this stage, the ball of cells is called a morula Then something miraculous happens: gastrulation. The cells differentiate into three membranes which will develop into all of our tissues and organs: the ectoderm (which will become the skin and nervous system), the endoderm (which will become the digestive and respiratory systems), and the mesoderm (which will become the muscle and skeletal systems).
Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine uses these membranes (called doshas) as the basis for diet, health and well being. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both use symbology to tie the body to the greater social and cosmic cycles, through the use of the 5 elements, yin-Yang and other associated qualities. The difficulty I have with our very young tradition of scientific medicine is that it is so complex in its detail that there are numerous specialized fields, which leaves the layman further removed from sharing our cultural knowledge of how we regard our bodies and health, and many settle for the quackery of television and tabloid generalizations.
Prostrating before the masses.
Although our personal development begins with conception (I refuse to enter the debate on when life begins. My answer is 4 billion years ago), the process began long before, with our parents, their parents and so on, and on the molecular level, with their DNA. DNA as the basis of all life and reproduction (well, RNA as well), it is an important consideration.
DNA molecules are being developed into molecular computers, although this is still in the early stages. Bases pair up with each other, forming the rungs of the ladder in the animation above. There are 4 bases, two pairing types: adenine (A) forms a base pair with thymine (T) and guanine (G) forms a base pair with cytosine (C). In RNA, thymine is replaced by uracil (U).
Three consecutive bases form a codon, which defines the amino acid/protein to be developed in the cell. There are 20 amino acids defined by 64 codons. I’m not trying to get too deeply into molecular biology (which I always struggled with) or genetics (which I struggled with only slightly less), but at least want to look at the basis of life, and the basic math we associate with it. This has been done before, as I have previously posted about, by the folks at the 13 moon law of time site, founded by Jose Arguelles.
In the above graphic, the tao and I ching binary system links the 64 hexagrams with the 64 codons.
The Maya also held 20 as sacred, likely because it is our total number of digits (fingers and toes). It’s also the number of amino acids.
By the Numbers
What are the time periods most fundamental to us in terms of natural timekeeping? The Day, Lunation and Year are the foundation. Joseph Campbell associated the second with the resting adult heart rate, which if you’re going to build an arbitrary time system seems as good a starting point as ever. In Ayurveda, blinking and the breath are tied to 4 second periods. These are by no means measure of an actual breath, or an actual heart rate, but Platonic ideals, not as some idea of perfection to strive for, but as a symbolic number to tie things together. A mnemonic. It is more effective to have a system in place than to go with rote memorization.
The I Ching and tao use a binary counting system. As it’s the basis for computer language, it seems appropriate that we should become more familiar with it. However, our approach to binary thought in North America is divisive, whereas the taoist is complimentary.
We tend to see extremes as conflicting opposites. Light-Dark are seen as forces of good and evil. One is expected to align themselves with the good and oppose the evil. This creates a rift between the extremes. Light is good, dark evil. The taoist view is that the extremes define the space between them. Light and dark are polar perfections, and we exist in the interplay of grey, shade, shadow, red, green, indigo and all variation in between.
There is a progression from the absence (as with dark, or cold) to presence (light, heat). The in-between is the gradation. Both extremes are necessary, and opposing one in favour of the other brings imbalance. At least, that’s my dilettantish opinion on the matter.
The binary system reflects our first physical days, dividing from one zygote to 2 cells, 4 cells, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 through the process of mitosis. It is the basis of the I ching which is also tied to time, the moon, the seasons. It is an essential link.
The three embryonic membranes determine all of our body tissues. We perceive three primary hues of colour. Our sense of space is defined by three dimensions, in no small part due to the three semi-circular canals in the inner ear which determine our balance. Three bases form a codon.These are a few fundamental biological examples of 3. There are more.
Our DNA/RNA have four base pairs, we have four limbs, our hearts have four chambers, our livers have four lobes.
One way of defining 5 is 4 + 1 (my thanks to grade 1 math). 5 base pairs – DNA uses four, RNA uses a different set of four. Four limbs, but 5 extremities, if we count our head. Our two lungs have 5 lobes. We have 5 digits per limb. We can think of 10 and 20 as multiples of 5.
Human gestation lasts 9 lunar months.
We have 13 major articulations (neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles).
For the moment, it appears that the traditional Chinese, Indian and Mesoamerican systems of timekeeping might harmonize the levels of time best. These at least represent the East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas. Not to exclude others, by any means. Scientific astronomy, medicine and so forth will certainly play a role, but the essence of this is in its coherence, and self-similarity.
I am not above fudging numbers for the sake of a beautifying the system. =)
309 Days to Dec 21st 2012